Rugby player convicted after headbutt on pitch

Callum Hanratty. Picture: Vic Rodrick
Callum Hanratty. Picture: Vic Rodrick
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A rugby star has been found guilty of deliberately breaking a rival player’s nose in an on-field clash.

Callum Hanratty headbutted Colin Cantley in the face during an aggressive return match at Livingston Rugby Club’s Almond Park ground in West Lothian.

He was also convicted of repeatedly punching Mr Cantley, 28, who was helped off the pitch with blood streaming from his smashed nose.

The victim’s partner – who witnessed the attack as she stood on the sidelines with her children – rushed him to hospital for treatment.

The Livingston player later had surgery to reset his broken nose and, ironically, was in hospital for a second op yesterday when Hanratty was convicted of assaulting him during the incident two years ago.

Gym manager Hanratty, 32, of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, had denied assault and claimed he acted in self defence but was found guilty after a two-day trial.

Giving evidence yesterday he said he normally played rugby for the Edinburgh team’s first XV but had agreed to play for an hour at the seconds and thirds rematch to test his fitness after an injury.

He claimed that he had taken Mr Cantley down with a “firm but ordinary tackle but, as he got up, Mr Cantley had swung his boot at his legs to try and trip him up”.

Then, he said Mr Cantley got up and moved in close to him saying: “Go on, hit me. Hit me!”.

Hanratty told Livingston Sheriff Court: “He took hold of my shirt at the scruff of my neck. I grabbed him by the scruff too and we were holding each other at arm’s length.

“He put his hand up onto my face – open palm – and tried to push my head backwards. At that point there were players arriving from everywhere to try and separate us. There was a lot of weight flying around and there was the odd fist or knee going in. I covered my head.”

He flatly denied headbutting or punching Mr Cantley, but admitted he had later been suspended by the Scottish Rugby Union for his involvement in the melee.

Under questioning by fiscal depute Catherine Knowles, he admitted that he’d been “fairly annoyed” at his opponent and that the incident had been a “flash point” in the game.

Sheriff Susan Craig called for social work background reports and freed Hanratty, a first offender, on bail. He will be sentenced later.

Outside court, Hanratty criticised the decision to bring the case to court, saying: “Imagine if everybody that struck someone on a football or rugby pitch came to court. The courts would be overflowing if they did.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com